Hearts boss tips on-form Stewart for international call-up

CSABA LASZLO believes Michael Stewart's recent goal-scoring form is worthy of an international recall from Scotland coach Craig Levein.

The Hearts manager has also advised majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov to sanction a new contract for the club captain as soon as possible.

Stewart, out of contract this summer, has held preliminary discussions with Hearts' sport director Alexandr Metlitski about an extension, although he has yet to receive a formal offer.

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After scoring his eighth goal of the season from the penalty spot against St Mirren on Saturday, Laszlo praised the midfielder for his improved attitude and application and championed his case for a Scotland return. "I told our board what is important for the team from my point of view," said Laszlo today.

"I gave them my plan for the long and short-term eight weeks ago, and Michael Stewart's name was in the plan for us to keep him.

"You saw his development and I think even he is an interesting player for the national team. Scotland don't have so many players in midfield who score so many goals and bring danger to the opponents. Michael Stewart plays with this potential. Before, his performance was always up and down. Everybody knows what qualities he has but he had to up his performance on the field.

"Even in his personality there has been a very high improvement. He understands which qualities he can bring to the team and I wait for the same from other people, for example Marius Zaliukas. Zaliukas has very good qualities but he must learn to concentrate on this quality and to bring it on the field. Then the people can talk very positive about you."

Zaliukas is expected to overcome the calf injury which forced him to hobble off minutes from the end of the St Mirren victory and should be available to face Rangers at Ibrox this weekend.

Craig Thomson, however, is facing a further eight weeks of rehabilitation after undergoing keyhole surgery on his damaged knee cartilage. The teenager has not played since Hearts' defeat of Celtic in early December and is now unlikely to return until March.

"It is disappointing news for the player and the team," said Laszlo. "The medical team had a look and decided something had to be done. He will be out for a while. The positive thing is that Jason Thomson is back from his injury, played the full game against St Mirren, so we have someone for that position."